There is a huge gap in research covering this period. Thanks to research from the historian W. Pinch, we have some important insights about the yoga discourse in the Mughal Empire. So I will follow Pinch’s research into militant asceticism to throw some light on what happened to the jogi identity in this period.
Many Persian sources document the emergence and growth of warrior ascetics in Northern India. These fighting ascetics became a critical part of a huge market of professional soldiers – mercenaries – who sold themselves to the different warring sections of Mughal warrior elites. Around 1600 the Mughal emperor alone employed 4.5 million soldiers. From 1500 the first reports about the warrior ascetics described them as having rather simple weapons like stones, swords and bows. This changed dramatically. At the decline of the Mughal Empire (200 years later) warrior ascetics like Gosains and Bairagis – various groups of monotheistic monks – are reported as being able to deliver armies of up to 20,000 soldiers with modern weapons like musketry, artillery and material for sieges against well fortified locations. They were able to supply the backbone of an army and they were seen to be loyal and fearless fighters. The traveller Tavernier met some of them in 1640. It was a party of 75 fakirs or Muhammadan dervishesâ and Tavernier gives a good description of their weapons:
They were all armed, the majority with bows and arrows, some with muskets, and the remainder with short pikes, and a kind of weapon which we have not got in Europe. It is a sharp iron, made like the border of a plate which has no centre, and they pass eight or ten over the head carrying them on the neck like a ruff.. Each of them had also had a sort of hunting horn, which he sounds, and make a great noise with when he arrives anywhere During the same evening, after they had supped, the Governor of the town came to pay his respect to the principal Dervishesâ.